Aerial classes offer absolutely essential opportunities for instruction, community, and safe training. But in what ways could they be limiting?
Being watched can cause self-consciousness. That self-consciousness can lead you to think about what the other person is thinking and perceiving (especially if you are a highly sensitive person or an empath), which distracts you from the task at hand.
The scrutiny of another, no matter how compassionate and well-intentioned, can also cause you to overthink what you are doing and become less connected to your body. You may even physically shake out of fear of what the other person thinks of you, which interferes with natural movement.
Coaches can help mitigate the negative affects of observing students by keeping a soft face, maintaining an encouraging presence, and promoting a supportive classroom atmosphere.
Too much help
Coaches are there to answer questions and help while you work on challenging skills. Thank goodness that they can remind you which pole to grab, which direction to wrap, and to flip your grip.
But what if you had paused a little longer and thought about what you were doing?
A. You might have realized what you need to do next, thereby engaging your own critical mind and intuition through problem-solving and thinking about theory (whether you are thinking with your brain or your body, which is a whole other can of worms).
B. You might have unwrapped, come down, thought about it, and tried again. Although (or perhaps BECAUSE it is) more time consuming, this process gives you a chance to come to your own understanding of the skill without any help.
Your coach may at times challenge you to figure something out, but largely, their job is to guide you through the skills. Having the opportunity to figure things out for yourself is empowering and insightful.
Are they judging me? Am I taking too much air time? Does my face look red? Did I upset them by getting it so easily when they were struggling? Was I too brusque when I said hi? Are my feet clean enough?
Having other people around can feel stressful, especially if they are people you don’t know well or are not really comfortable with (this is why the coach has such an important job in cultivating their class culture).
Having those worries is distracting, making it more difficult to relax into a nuanced relationship with the apparatus and the skill you are working on. Your mind is not able to completely be absorbed in what you are doing if you are constantly considering the feelings and opinions of everyone around you.
Of course, the opposite can be true. Other students can give you confidence that you normally wouldn’t have. It’s definitely important to consider this on a case-by-base basis.
The pacing isn’t perfect
There is no classroom in which everyone learns in the same way at the same pace. That means that there are times you’ll be ahead of everyone, and times you’ll wish the the teacher wouldn’t move on quite yet. You could be right on the brink of understanding something (whether you realize it or not) when the teacher moves the class on to the next skill. Maybe if you’d had 5 more minutes, you would have had the breakthrough you’re yearning for. Maybe the skill will appear in the next class, maybe not.
Solo training gives you the opportunity to take as much or as little time as you want on a particular skill. You can hone in on the challenging or confusing aspects and linger there until it feels easier and makes more sense.
The content isn’t always interesting to you
Oh, another belay variation? Another splits move when my splits suck? Hip key drills again? There are approximately one-zillion skills to choose from in aerial arts, and you have your own unique interests among those. You don’t control what you learn in class (unless your teacher takes requests) and you may or may not love the content. You may not be exposed to skills you might be really good at–or skills that would be good challenges for you.
When you train solo, you get to choose what to work on, meaning you have to notice what you are drawn to and what excites you. The answers to those questions have something to do with your unique aerial style, too.
Of course, it’s really good to not have complete control over what you learn, because there may be things that are very valuable to you that you wouldn’t have necessarily felt interested in or felt the courage to try.
Not everybody has the opportunity to train solo, but if you have been considering your options for studio rentals or a free-standing rig, I hope this article helps with your decision! If you’d love some space to yourself when training while still having the support of professional coaches, check out Aerial Silks Online, an internationally-used catalog of aerial silks tutorials by Anna Cicone and myself.